A Gentleman’s Game

“Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen, soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by beasts, football is a beastly game played by beasts.” Henry Blaha


Although soccer is not the oldest sport, it certainly is one of the most respected throughout the world of sports. As it is, soccer has come under scrutiny by fans of other sports wondering why it’s so ‘great’ – as soccer supporters so deem it. Here are a few cases in point:

For soccer naysayers, I point to the book, Twelve Books That Changed the World, in which it lists – hopefully you caught on – the 12 books that changed the world, including but not limited to: Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton (1687), Magna Carta (1215), On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776), and The King James Bible by God (King James version printed 1611). Those, as one can see, are pretty hefty books with a wealth of knowledge within each one pertaining to and including a multitude of topics concerning life. One text included in the ‘Twelve Books…’ that raised my eyebrow: Book of Rules of Association Football (1863).

For the documentary video on The History of Football stemming from Twelve Books That Changed the World:  and

Soccer is ingrained in the rest of the world as seen through ‘Twelve Books…,’ but is becoming more so in the United States. Colonization by the Brits, as well as wars throughout the early 1900s, ended up being catalysts for the rest of the world joining into the beautiful game as their sport of choice.

Because of the spread of the sport throughout the world, football has brought together people who normally would not be associated with each other. There are certain intangible benefits through sport – soccer included – regardless of a person’s age, sex, race, religion, financial status or ethnicity. Soccer is certainly a sport that stands the test of time, diversity, and, what’s even more telling, is that soccer players show strength of character – on and off the field – as seen recently by the event that was held in Newtown, Connecticut, after the horrendous shootings. A conglomerate of MLS players showed their support for the families going through loss, as well as lifting the spirits of the kids and parents of the community for Soccer Night in Newtown.

Video of Soccer Night in Newtown:

Not counting special events such as the Soccer Night in Newtown, there is an array of philanthropies that have put their hand in the metaphorical soccer foundation jar, only to find the need is great and people in different communities – spanning from Portland to Minneapolis to North Carolina – enjoy integrating soccer with helping others.

Not only do soccer players look forward to building up a community through philanthropic efforts, footballers also enjoy the simple aspects of the game, seen by the movie, Pelada. In the film, two former college soccer players travel around the world from Brazil to Bolivia to Kenya to Iran, playing pick-up soccer with a whole host of people, and yet, it is the candor, sincerity, and the transparent love of the game that equates to (usually) mutual respect of opponents and teammates that outplay any skilled footwork or golazos in the film.

On the other side of worldwide pick-up games are professional soccer players and their multi-million dollar contracts. They train week in and week out with most likely one or two matches per week for months on end. The players become accustomed to one another, and, although footballers often play against each other in league play, many times they play with each other on international teams. Therefore, many of them are friends and respect and support each other on and off the pitch. Such was the case when former Bolton midfielder, Fabrice Muamba, collapsed at almost half time of an FA Cup Semifinal game at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane in 2012. Muamba’s teammates, as well as Hotspur players (i.e. Kyle Walker, who Muamba played with on England’s U-21 team), and shocked fans, all gathered to support the player who, ultimately, ended up having cardiac arrest on the field and was, technically, dead for 78 minutes, but was eventually revived. Muamba’s return to White Hart Lane – as he walked to the area of the pitch where he collapses (in the video) – only showcases the class and respect soccer fans – and players – have for one another. 

Also, I don’ t recall any other sport that unites friends and foes alike as soccer can – and does. As Simon Kuper stated in his book Soccernomics, ““It seems that soccer tournaments create those relationships: people gathered together in pubs and living rooms, a whole country suddenly caring about the same event. A World Cup is the sort of common project that otherwise barely exists in modern societies.” Case in point: Landon Donovan’s goal in South Africa. (Because, honestly, what other sport has you hugging and kissing, cheering with – and possibly weeping beside – complete strangers because your country won a game?)

Here you are…the infamous video from South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, ‘The World’s Reaction to Landon Donovan’s Game Winning Goal.’ 

So although the quote at the top of the page harkens to the fact that the beautiful game can be a bit brutal, (because it’s played by ‘beasts’) it is also a game that is played by men and women who uphold respectfulness and dignity within the beautiful game (and to add: many elite players are smart as they carry a certain cognitive skill set).

So when one gets down to the facts of soccer, it is a game played by and watched by, gentlemen and scholars.


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